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Are You Benefiting From Your Company’s Benefits?

Authored by: Kristi M. Tafalla, JD, MS, ChFC, CFP(r), Legal Counsel

Looking for a new job can be both exciting and confusing. You may find several employers that fit your skill set and offer the right salary, but you should also consider what fringe benefits they offer. In some cases, accepting a smaller salary may make more sense if the benefits make up a larger part of the compensation package. Here are just some of the things that you should consider when looking for a new job.

  1. Salary

Salary, of course, is an important factor when selecting a new job. You can visit websites like salary.com or payscale.com to see what individuals in your area are making. You should compare the salaries for people who have similar experience and education. You should also consider the size of the firm. Boutique firms, like MonkeyTag, will pay salaries consistent with other boutique firms. Larger firms are likely to pay a slightly higher salary, but the work environment will likely be different.

  1. Health Insurance

The type of health insurance offered, and the amount an employer pays toward health insurance, is often a key area when comparing the differential between pay vs. benefits. For example, let’s assume one employer offers you a $50,000 salary and pays 25% of a high deductible health insurance plan. Let’s also assume that another company offers you a $47,500 salary and pays 100% of a PPO plan. The premiums on a high deductible plan for an individual are usually between $1,000 to $2,000 per year, while the premiums on a PPO are closer to $6,000 to $7,000 per year. In addition, the health coverage for both is very different. A high deductible plan will require the individual to pay a deductible of at least $1,200 before the insurance kicks in, while a PPO will have copays in the $25 to $35 range when you visit the doctor. When comparing the value of the health benefits coupled with the offered salary, company B is providing more benefits ($50,000 + $250 = $50,250 vs. $47,500 + $6,000 = $53,500; plus tax and payroll savings; and better coverage).  At MonkeyTag, we pay 100% of the employee’s premiums for a PPO plan and a dental plan.

  1. Retirement Accounts

As rewarding as your job may be, most people don’t want to work for the rest of their lives. So, saving for retirement is a necessity. Employers can offer a variety of plans, with the most common two being a 401(k) plan and a Simple plan. Both are good, but they do have different limits and features. Questions you should ask are: 1) when am I eligible to enter into the plan; 2) can I defer money into the plan; 3) how much will the employer put in, if any and 4) how is the employer’s money vested. For example, at MonkeyTag, we have a Safer Harbor 401(k) plan which allows employees to enter once they are 21 years of age, have 12 months of service with at least 1,000 hours worked, and meet the next entrance date. The employee can put in the maximum allowed by law (currently $18,000). MonkeyTag makes an automatic contribution (equal to 3% of salary to all eligible employees) that is 100% vested, and has the discretion to make additional contributions that vest over a 2 to 6 year time frame.

  1. Paid Time Off

Everyone needs time to decompress and enjoy life! Not only is having paid time off important, but the company culture regarding time off is equally essential. It doesn’t mean much if your employer gives you time off for holidays but you are constantly expected to work on holidays to meet client needs. Or, if you get lots of vacation but feel the pressure to never use it. Be sure to ask what the culture is regarding time off in addition to asking what they offer. MonkeyTag offers 13 paid holidays, plus 2 weeks of vacation, per year for new employees. Additional days of vacation are given once the employee has more than 3 years of service. Although we rarely have an issue, we have a policy in place allowing employees who must work over a holiday to use that time off on a different day.

  1. Parking/Commuting

If you work in the downtown area, parking or commuting can be an expensive part of your monthly expenses. In downtown Dallas (where MonkeyTag is located), parking ranges from $50 – $200 per month. Some people enjoy using public transportation, but even the local monthly pass on Dart will cost you $80 if you can’t find a discount code. You should ask your potential employer if they will pay a portion of your parking or DART pass each month. This provision can be provided tax free. So, in addition to saving money on the parking/DART pass, you don’t have to pay tax dollars on the provided benefit. At MonkeyTag, we pay $50 towards parking or include employees on our corporate Dart plan that provides a local, monthly pass.

  1. Education

Albert Einstein said it best, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” Especially in a creative environment, you must always be learning new ways to perfect your craft. Understanding your employer’s perspective on learning can tell you a lot. Do they encourage learning, and are they willing to give you the time off and pay for supplemental education? While many companies expect you to learn on your own time, MonkeyTag believes an investment in educating our employees is an investment in our business. With approval, we will pay up to $1,500 per employee, per year for conferences, memberships in industry organizations and classes/workshops. We also host various lunch and learns with members of our teams, or outside experts, as presenters.

  1. Company Size

The size of the company you pick is often just preference. Typically, larger companies have more structure and clear lines of command, but they also have less room for individual autonomy.  Smaller companies often allow for more individual autonomy, but they frequently have less rigid structure and may suffer from communication gaps, especially in years of growth. With 17 people (owners, full-time and part-time employees), MonkeyTag is considered a business on the smaller side. We do experience some of the communication gaps that growing businesses suffer from, but we work hard to limit them. We have completed DISC assessments on all our employees and owners, and we have had DISC training to increase everyone’s ability to communicate more effectively. We also utilize an assortment of communication platforms to keep everyone up to speed.

  1. Social Events & Overall Work Environment

Work environment can mean the difference between loving your job and wanting to skip out as often as possible. Knowing how you thrive and what works for you can help you pick the right place. You should look around at employees when you visit your potential employer – do they look happy, or do they look miserable? Do they do fun things together? Do they share lunch together? Does the company sponsor a variety of social events? At MonkeyTag, we work hard to keep the fun in our creative environment. We host a Spring and Fall social for all employees. Prior events have included a baseball game outing, a cooking competition, and a wine tasting. We also host monthly birthday celebrations as well as an end of the year Holiday Party.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when finding a new work home. Salary alone is often not a direct link to happiness. So be sure to take these other things into consideration. Whether the perfect place for you is MonkeyTag or another creative agency, I hope these help you find your perfect fit.